Robins, Rolls, Eagles & Runways Ahead of Us!!!


Looks like alabaster but it's the real deal. Or was.
Azteka: Another View of the Goods (Mui Bueno).
Azteka: View from the sidewalk
Azteka: One of Those, one of those, and two of those, and ....
Azteka, fresh from the oven: Jalapeno-cheese bread, crunchy crust, melt-in-your mouth interior. See? Si!
First robin of 2011: February 19. Yowzer!
Azteka: Trays and trays of trays and trays
Flicker on the feed. Note the bright yellow under tail feathers. When bird flies yuou also see white spot on back, which gave rise to Yooper name of dollar butt for the bird.
Backyard Ice Lizard


Our redtail hawk pair is in the neighborhood again and a couple of chicken hawks (Coopers) flying missions over our backyard bird feeders. Night before last I got up early (0400)  to work and Shanahan went out and immediately killed a rabbit, and consumed a bloody good portion, a stark reminder that for all our anthropomorphizing and  humanizing him, he remains solidly and unrepentently, a dog. Good for him.

Some news bits bugging me in last couple of days. First, my pal Ed Haerter sent me a note pointing out that remote drone pilots, flying from some sort of building in Arizona or New Mexico (or both) are now going to earn hazardous duty pay, which we all called combat pay way back then. They come to work, fly their missions on video screens, and go home. No PCS or TDY  to exotic locales or concerns about crashing their own bods, or conditions like WIA, or KIA, or MIA or POW. Times change. I’m not sure for the better. Not denying their work is important, perhaps even critical, but it’s not combat like pilots are actually flying in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just isn’t.

The other thing was a news report yesterday that Rick Snyder, (OTN, his term for himseff: One Tough Nerd) our new  OTN has announced he will forego $158,999 of his gubernatorial salary and take only a dollar for the next year. Okay, on it’s surface it’s a noble gesture, but then I got to thinking. Snyder has announced he intends to fix Michigan’s economy and straighten out our financial house mess.  He, according to reports, spent $6,100,000 of his own fortune to earn the Lansing office, for a $1 salary. Now, I ask: Is someone who makes such a trade the one we want trying to fix us? Really? Hell even at $159K a year (3rd highest governor salary in the country, you have to question a man’s analytical abilities and judgment in making such an “investment.”  Spending $6.1M for $159K return (XX percent)? Just sayin.’

Over past couple of weeks Jambe Longue and I watched the entire Band of Brothers and Pacific series form HBO. Wonderful series and work, a must-see for all folks. Other than that we are in the Sargasso Sea time of winter, becalmed in work.  BTW, soon I’m going to put blog instructions on the front page of the website because many of my readers I fear, don’t even know that Joe Roads is a blog, or how to open and read it. I’ll put instructions up front along with answer to the prevailing question, when will Grady be back? The answer, regular blog readers know is next fall, title of Force of Blood, but I’ll take another step to make sure any who come to the site can make the determination quickly.

After the recent health surprise, we’re waiting for an early march appointment to find out if chemotherapy and radiation lie ahead for Lonnie, or just the latter. We’re assuming both but will be happier with just the latter, but you can’t plan that way. Jambe Longue of course is chomping a the bit to get back over  Da BeekBritch.

Finally, a few pix from Azteka and da boyd feedah. Also a photo from CO Becky Hopkins. She and sone Justin were in line for Pizza to see the new Harry Potter flick and she got a call about an injured eagle. The finders had already called Lansing, who sent them to the county and  the rehabber, and Officer Hopkins felt like the  good samaritans had had enough of a runaround, so she left Justin with a barrel of popcorn (maybe pizza too)  and went to fetch the bald eagle to deliver to rehabbers Joe and Barb Rodgers of Shepherd. Unfortunately, the bird didn’t survive,  COD unknown, this anecdote a reminder of the Stories Your Mother Never Told You Department: For all our well intended and heroic efforts, sometimes the dragon wins. Good job, Beck.

That revered last Saturday in April: She ain’t so far away now. Really.

Remember: most useless things on earth: runway behind you, altitude above you. Kick your tires and light your fires. Have to admit I can’t translate that into dronepilotese, but I’m sure they have something akin to it for what they do.

Let’s all keep our eyes on  the runway ahead of us and on a swivel after we’re airborne. Over.

New Blog Category, The Work of Writing

I was first published in 1986, and in the quarter century since thin I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to have an interest in the process and mechanics of writing fiction, which led me to think I might try an occasional blog on the subject. This is the first entry.

The most frequent comment I hear is “I think I have a book in me.” (I know: This sounds like a tumor and in some ways it is and the only way to get rid of it is to move from inside your brain to paper.) Or some put it this way, “I have this idea for a book.” Perhaps one in a hundred have actually sat with paper and pencil (fingers on computer, etc.). What I tell them is that if you think you have a story, sit down and write it, and write it all the way to an end, which may not be the end you finally decide on. Forget about all sorts of quality details in the first go-through. Just get the story down on paper as best you can. Finishing is the goal, not finishing perfectly. When it’s done, then you can go back and begin to polish and refine it.  Until then you only have a fragment to work with. Too many people who do start to write,  spend years rewriting the first 1,000 words trying  to get it perfect. The average novel these days is 100,000 words, double-spaced, 12-point type. Say it takes several years for you to get the first thousand just so? You’ve still got 90,000 more to go. And that first fragment is only 1/10th — a fragment of something. My advice, take a deep breath and go to it until the first draft is done.

Writing groups might be of use to you , that is, people in your community who all feel like they have a book “in” them. They usually meet weekly or monthly and you turn in what you’ve done and the next meeting people give you written and verbal feedback. Check at your library to see if such groups are near you.  But here’s what I see as the problem with this, and it’s just my opinion. If your group is 10 people and you each haul in 1,000 words a month, that means you’ve got 9,000 words a month to critique, plus your own 1,000 to write. If you are just trying to get started, this is [here’s a mixed metaphor] like jumping off the ski jump your first day on skis, and now you have 9,000 words to read every month, or 108,000 words a year, which is the equivalent of a novel. Not everyone can produce 1,000 words a month, so the numbers will be less. Or, you’ll keep seeing the SAME 1,000 words each month as the same writer tries to polish and re-polish. The fact is that you’re taking on a giant workload which can threaten to squash your own. Plus, we don’t all read and write and like the same things and there will be a lot in your group you may have absoulutely no interest in reading. It may be that groups work better for poetry and short story writing, but for the novel and long fiction, it seems impractical to me and burdensome.  It can work, I guess, but I think it’s tough and requires somebody with great experience and leadership to make it happen. You’ll have to decide for yourself. One advantage is that you are people with similar aspirations and commitments to the art, which means you no doubt share the same problems and challenges, or many of them, so the social part can be beneficial to some.

Another option is for you  to take writing classes, community adult ed, community college, local college or university, there’re lots of options, but most of these cost $$. Sometimes paying for something makes us work harder, but it’s not that way for everyone. Even in classes you’ll be looking at fellow students’ work, so there is that additional workload, plus you will have hard and fast deadlines. In writing groups, you decide what and how much and how fast you will work. In a class your teacher may decide all of this for you. The good thing is that if your teacher is good, you’ll get solid feedback on your work, and that’s what what you’re paying for.

Whatever path you choose, it’s imperative that you read fiction. In fact when I’m told by someone they want to write a novel, I always ask if they read novels. You’d be shocked by how many don’t read fiction, yet want to write a novel. One thing all the writers I’ve known (and know) about have in common is that they are always reading and most will tell you that reading helps them develop the voice and ears for telling a story. If you don’t have the ears or voice, your chances of writing a novel that will interest people, much less an agent or publisher, is small indeed.

A colleague of mine years ago did a study in a master’s program to look at people who choose jobs that don’t involve a lot of writing. Not surprisingly her finding was that people who don’t like to write, find jobs that won’t require much writing. By extension, people who don’t read novels aren’t likely to want to really tackle creating one. So, you’ve got to ask yourself. Why am I wanting to do this?

You need to be honest in your own self-assessment You have a story burning to be told? Great, that’s what you need, though if it’s truly burning how come you haven’t done anything before this? Or, are you enamored of some sort of “image” of authorship, being”thought of” as an author. Lot’s of people fall into this category, but I can tell you, after you hold the first one in your hands, that feeling never amounts to much again. The title of author and the work required to make it happen are different animals.

By the time a new book comes out, I’m at least one book downstream from there, and sometimes two and I have to go back and re-read in order to get the new book back into my mind so I can talk intelligently about it (or seem to). For me the real joy and pleasure is in creating something out of nothing (which is a damn good description of my mind). I like making things that interest, intrigue, edify, and entertain readers, though I don’t write with a reader in mind. I tell stories I want to hear, not stories aimed at some artificially chosen demographic group.

You want to write? Get thee to it. What do you need? Patience, candor with yourself, a strong work ethic, a little place to work, the ability to sit long hours on your dupa alone, a work- schedule you adhere to, and a good story to tell. Having these things, sit on down and tell it. Don’t worry about what happens after you have it; that’s a whole different set of challenges.

It’s my plan also to talk about painting and other creative endeavors in this blog, how much and to what extent, only time will tell.

If you find these things interesting, drop me a line through the web-site email.


Wandering Bruin

Word from CO Dave Painter in Crystal Falls that for the last week a small sow bear of about 50 pounds came out of hibernation and wandered around town. With the temperature sitting at a balmy 7 he decided the road might be easier for his tootsies so he wandered the streets and roads and finally climbed up a tree. Dave says it’s most likely she got bumped out of winter sleep by a logging job near her den. Bears aren’t true hibernators; they go into a sleep pattern that roughly approximates true hibernation.  Finally the February wanderer crawled up a tree to pose for photos before the DNRE drugged her and moved her away from roads. Over.

Peek-a-boo, I SEE you!





Bet Ms. Bruin wouldn't forget a line in the National Anthem!
I'm soooo


We’re in a little cold spell. Obama visits the UP today and that ought to be funny. Pal mary sent some ice photos to remind snowbirds what things look like back here. Over.

Brrr 1
Way cool. Literally.

Face-Plant and Keep on Trucking

Post from CO Jeremy Payne from couple of days ago. I love these kinds of reports: “Today, during the arrest of some poachers I was running in the snow. While running in the snow I did a face-plant off a 5’ snowdrift, tactically rolled back onto my feet and continued my pursuit of the criminals. When the suspect turned the corner of a house his first words were, “What the hell happened to you?” I must have looked pretty intimidating covered in snow. Arrests were made, I love being a Game Warden!”

Jeremy Payne, second from left. COs in tactical gear.

After the Super Boil

Okay, the national “boil” has been lanced and drained for another year and Christina Aguilera dropped a line out of the National Anthem, rather than a breast out of her costume. [Does hers count as lower or higher gaffe?] It was a good football game with major momentum shifts and solid performances under the so-called gun. Halftime? Damn bizarre, which reminded me largely of a marching band on acid with no instruments. Some wise-acre once said you know you’re on the down-side of life when you can’t figure out pop songs and one day it occurs to you that they are no longer about “you.” Further, humor aimed at younger folk tends to riccochet off your aging bean. This was my take on halftime last night but more on that in a moment. The advertisements: Is the world in the process of being animated? First we outsourced to the gods of globalization and now animation? Are cartoons the 21st century workforce? Animation certainly reduces actors’ workloads and demands. What will we humans do while celluloid avatars work?

But about that halftime show: lots of velocity and movement, no discernable direction. It looked like Blue Man Group draped in light sticks and somwhat reminiscent of suicide bomber get-ups. Just saying. The dance numbers (dare we say choreography?) were a mix of US Army Basic Training PT and Hi-Speed Tai Chi performed under blacklight. Songs? Could not understand a single word, not one. Except LOVE in electrolit neon on the stage, which seemed a bright blinking nonsequitor. The Black Eyed Peas wore leather, simulating spacesuits or S&M getups for the post-party. And who was the Black Eyed Pea warble-dude wearing a clear plastic soccer goalie helmet? The whole thing was like a cheesy sci-fi video shot in somebody’s garage. Musical Matrix on the cheap.

Thank the gods no aliens landed in Dallas last night during the halftime goings-on; they surely would have wondered how the hell this species ever managed to get into space.( I wonder the same thing.) The show was a pile of high meat, truly je ne sais quoi…in the worst possible way. Think: pigswill.

Oh yeah, the Green Bay Packers edged the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25. I like it like that, like that, like that, and Kalamazoo’s Greg Jennings had a fine game — once they got him involved in the offensive scheme.

My final thought on this: una-i-kto-alu, which is Inuit for, “It is very cold.”


Super Bowling from Abroad

One BBC reporter this morning described the Super Bowl as follows: 60 minutes of football and 47 minutes of adverts at a cost of $100,000 per second, seats ranging from $2000 – $23,000, parking at $500, and sleep-cheapest, no-tell motel rooms starting at $2,000 a night.” He could have added the game is played by steroidally – enhanced athletes being paid mega-millions for never growing up and continuing to play a kid’s game until their bodies break down, or management unceremoniously dumps their butts in the street. The average player salary in 2009 was $1.9 million. No numbers are available for last year or this. The average career lasts 3.3 years (only 2.57 for running backs). Fans don’t like to think about this.

Not a single mention of excellence, glory, or sport, just money. And in a country where most gambling is illegal, every paper and TV station reports point spreads. Only in America as a dear Ozzie friend used to lament.

I remember a line from Pete Gent’s book, North Dallas Forty when the protagonist is being confronted by team managagement and he bemoans (I paraphase; the book is downstairs, I’m too damn lazy to walk down there and pull out the exact quote but is has stuck in my mind for decades: “Every time we players call it a business, you guys call it a sport; and every time we call it a sport, you guys call it a business.” Pete played and a year older than me, limps around with the leftover of the glory days.

The Super Bowl could be more accurately renamed the Grab-You- a Big-Ass-Pile-of-Money Bowl and it could just as well could be described as a gaudy display of haute yobbery, a gathering of chancers in a country in deep recession, where the government defined the poverty line in 2010 as $22,050 for a family of four.[Less than a high end seat for one butt in Dallas).

Yet down in Dallas a constellated mélange of partying haves are being watched by have-nothings while the government provides imaginary ghost shirts to the poor and as the middle class fades into oblivion we are left with what writer AA Gill called, “Twenty first century problems in a medieval society.” Today people sit in a life of no hope while those who still cling to some semblance of stuff look down their noses and think, “If ‘those people’ would just work.” Indeed. We are, too many of us, clueless to reality and we swim along day to day in a sea of deafening unspoken truths, clinging to myths of how we think the world use to be and never was. To Wit: Leave It to Beaver. Wasn’t true then, not true now. It was fiction on TV, nothing more.

 Meanwhile our President talks of his faith and hosts a Super Bowl party at the White House, taking a publicly neutral stand on the game’s outcome. Why in my mind today am i seeing Marie Antoinette and hearing her say, “Let them eat cake.?”

Last year the New Orleans – Indianapolis game drew 106.5 million viewers, thereby becoming the most watched TV program in history (dislodging the final episode of M*A*S*H, which held the top slot for 27 years).

Enough polemic: Ready for some football? Yeah, I’m weak, like most of the rest of my fellow sheep.

Bah. Go Pack. Over.



My daughter took 8 hours to drive 40 miles through  the storm yesterday after her students were dismissed at 1300. It’s a drive she won’t soon forget.

When you gotta go, you gotta go.
Dig-out time.
Lakeshore Drive, which was so much in the news.